Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thunderspire Labyrinth

A sequel to 4th Edition D&D's first published adventure, Keep on the Shadowfell, Thunderspire Labyrinth also takes place in the Nentir Vale setting described in the DMG. While it's technically the second in a series, there are very few real connections between the two modules, and could easily be run without having played the first module. In fact, there are "hooks" for both situations.

The adventure shares the same basic layout as the Keep on the Shadowfell: cardstock folder with two books and a map (only one map this time). Instead of being a player's book with starter rules, the first of the two books in this module includes the hooks, adventure summary, first encounter, visual aids, and entries for new monsters that appear in the adventure. This last bit is probably the best part of the module, and includes entries for Duergar, Bronze Warders, Enigmas of Vecna, Norkers, and Phalagars.

The visual aids take the form of color paintings showing some of the locations in the adventure. A nice idea, but at least one of them is completely inaccurate and could cause potential game issues if the players take it too literally: a picture showing a multi-story construction that actually only consists of one level. Having a picture that doesn't accurately show the described object defeats the whole purpose of having a picture.

The only other real issue I have with the adventure is the included game mat. It's not that there's anything particularly wrong with it, it's just that I have to wonder why they even bothered with it. Over 90% of the locations in the game will have to be set up by the DM. The locations portrayed on the mat aren't that complicated that they need the mat, and aren't generic enough that the DM will want to use them again. It ends up coming across as just a bit of filler so they can say that all their adventures come with a poster map.

So, that's the bad. The good is that the adventure seems fairly solid. You get an interesting new base of operations that isn't exactly a "point of light" more like a point of twilight where otherwise antagonistic races can meet to do business. The people that run it aren't exactly good, but they aren't exactly bad either. It appears that each major section of the adventure leads naturally to the next section without railroading the players. That is, as long as you use the Slave Rescue adventure hook. Out of the four starting hooks provided, this is the only one which the players have to complete the entire adventure to achieve. I could easily see a group that didn't have this hook decide to go off and do something else before completing the adventure as written. The adventure should emphasize that hook over the others, but it doesn't, so I'm doing it here.

As long as the DM uses the main hook, things look like they should go smoothly. There's a good mix of encounters, and adequate clues to show the players where to go next. Without a playtest I can't say if there are any unbalanced encounters, but there aren't any obviously unbalanced encounters that I can see.

I particularly like the way traps are being used so far in 4th edition. There always seem to be multiple ways of dealing with traps, from solving a puzzle, to using thief skills to disable it, to smashing it to bits, to simply ignoring it and hoping you can survive the damage. I don't know about 3rd edition, but I know that in 1st and 2nd many traps tended to be "save or die" type traps that you either detected and disabled or else triggered and died (or were otherwise incapacitated). Traps seem to me to be more interesting now. They can still kill you if you're stupid, but they won't kill you just because you can't read the mind of the person who created the adventure.

I supposed this is more a comment on 4th edition in general, but I make it here because more than one encounter in Thunderspire Labyrinth features traps.

In summary, this isn't a stellar effort, but it provides a reasonable framework in which the players can kill things and take their stuff.

1 comment:

BlackDiamond said...

Thanks for the advice. I'm about to begin running this adventure.

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